Dangerous and Daring Boys and Girls

We here at the Hyperion Institute for Advanced Callimastian-Callipygian-Kickassian Studies care about more than just your body. We care about your mind. It is this ethic that caused me to realize it has been far too long since my last book review. However, in order to ease you back into to a literary frame of mind (and, let us be honest: many of you are idiots), Today, I present two easy-to-read books. These books can be placed on coffee tables or in bathrooms, and make great conversation starters.

(Although, one really has to wonder: what kind of conversations are you having in your bathroom?)

The point is: the books are easy to read. They are broken up into small chunks of information, and you do not have to follow a complicated narrative. They’re perfect!

See if you agree.

Our two entries were hot Christmas presents last year to children from nostalgic uncles, great-aunts and maybe a grandparent or two. “The Dangerous Book for Boys” by Gonn and Hall Iggulden, and “the Daring Book for Girls” by Andrea Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz offer essential skills and knowledge—forgotten in our go-go world of tomorrow—that every kid should have.

At least, that is what they say.

Myself, I am not convinced there has ever been a boy or a girl who knew all of this stuff at any one time. Or even half of it. Or a tenth. But I quibble, for truly, would the treasure trove of information contained inside the pages not represent what we would want our kids to know?


“The Daring Book for Boys,” the first book, offers great founts of knowledge such as:

How to make the world’s greatest paper airplane
The Five Knots Every Boy should know
Making a Battery
Timers and Tripwires
Making Cloth Fireproof
Making a Water Bomb
A brief history of Artillery
Hunting and cooking a rabbit
The Golden Age of Piracy

I have specifically pulled out more “dangerous” activities, partly to be humorous, but it also serves as a good reminder. There are parents out there who are big ol’ fraidy cats. (Women, I am looking in your direction.) The idea that their little Johnny or Agamemnon could be out there cooking rabbits might horrify them. To these parents I say: cut your boys’ balls off now. It is quicker.

Seriously, some of the things are somewhat dangerous, but the book takes pains to point out when, and if you consider the world we live in, it is actually refreshing that someone would want to teach boys things in a safe manner.

Mostly what “The Dangerous Book for Boys” gives us is a glimpse—however accurate—back to a time when boys spent every available hour outdoors. Though never stated, it is obvious that the authors hold Television in disdain. There are plenty of sections of reading knowledge (like famous explorers, battles, maps and how to write in secret inks like spies), but zero information that one would need a television set. I like it.

As a gift for a child, the parent would want to look through it first. Maybe they co-own it and fathers read stuff to their sons. (Great idea, Hyperion!) However, I am recommending the book as I said earlier: for coffee tables and bathrooms. Some of the stuff in here is really cool, and I am glad I learned it. I previously did not know how to grow sunflowers, build a simple electromagnet, and I am sure the knowledge of how to grind an italic nib will come in handy soon.

Perhaps my favorite part is the section on girls. Let me give you a sample:

You may already have noticed that girls are quite different from you. By this, we do not mean the physical differences, more the fact that they remain unimpressed by your mastery of a game involving wizards, or your understanding of Morse code. Some will be impressed, of course, but as a general rule, girls do not get quite as excited by the use of urine as a secret ink as boys do.

We thought long and hard about what advice could possibly be suitable. It is an inescapable fact that boys spend a great deal of their lives thinking and dreaming about girls, so the subject should be mentioned here, as delicately as possible.

I have got you hooked, now, don’t I? Okay, I will reprint a few pieces of their advice on girls.

2. Be careful with humor. It is very common for boys to try to impress girls with a string of jokes, each one more desperate than the last. One joke, perhaps, and then a long silence while she talks about herself….

6. Play a sport of some kind. It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it replaces the corpse-like pallor of the computer programmer with a ruddy glow. Honestly, this is more important than you know.

7. If you see a girl in need of help—unable to lift something, for example—do not taunt her. Approach the object and greet her with a cheerful smile, while surreptitiously testing the weight of the object. If you find you can lift it, go ahead. If you can’t, try sitting on it and engaging her in conversation.

No taunting….who knew?

In contrast, “The Daring Book for Girls” offers a much more refined way to grow up. There are still plenty of outdoor activities, but also more ways to jump rope than you would ever believe. Some more examples:

Pressing Flowers
How to whistle with two fingers
Putting your hair up with a pencil
Cartwheels and Back Walk-Overs
Karate Moves
Handclap Games
Female Pirates
Friendship Bracelets
Cootie Catchers
How to change a Tire
How to negotiate a salary
Japanese T-shirt Folding

Again, I have picked some of the more provocative items, but you already see a clear difference from the boys’ book. These volumes are not interchangeable. I suppose some might argue that this book is anti-feminist, teaching girls “girly” things while the boys get to skin rabbits and blow stuff up. Oh, ye of little Biological Imperative faith. I will agree that there are far more stereotypically “feminine” things in the girls’ book. However, there are plenty of rough-and tumble here too, surprisingly so. Everything from building a campfire to what every girl should have in their toolbox. As for the girly stuff, I would argue there is nothing wrong with that. Girls seem to like slapping each other’s hands and chanting “Say-say oh playmate, come out and play with me….” Boys just like to slap each other. Rather than rail against some artificial glass ceiling, you Steinemites, count yourselves lucky you can do all manner of activities, whereas the boys are generally stuck with things that will (if done right) hurt someone or something. Who is really at a disadvantage…hmmm?

Of course, “The Daring Book for Girls” would not be complete without their own advice on the opposite sex.

As concerns boys themselves, you have several options. The first, of course, is to ignore them until you (and they) are 19. Or 21. Or 25.

Alternatively, you could make a boy your best friend. Boys can be excellent friends. In general they like to do things, and that makes them rather fun.

Of course, a third option is romance. Some girls might be interested in this kind o thing (you will recognize them by their doodles of their name and a boy’s name in a heart on their science homework); other girls might think that would be too icky to even imagine. If you are in this latter group, don’t worry, you have plenty of company.

If you are in the former group, there are two main things to keep in mind. One, if a boy doesn’t like you the way you are, the problem is him, not you. And two, don’t try to make a boy change for you—it’s important to appreciate people for who they are.

And you wonder why I think these would be good books for adults?

Overall, I found “The Dangerous Book for Boys” and “The Daring Book for Girls” to be fun reads. Each section is only a page or two, so the books can be read in small chunks of time, like during commercials, or when seeing how last night’s dinner came out.

Ouch. The girls out there are groaning right now, right? However, the boys out there are chuckling appreciatively, and that is why there are two books!

February 07, 2008

[for more book reviews, see our Book Review section in Literary Hype]


Koz Agamemnon Sr said...

Thats funny. I actually saw this book the other day and considered buying it for little Koz Agamemnon Jr. I decided he wasn't old enough for it yet.

Stags said...

The girls book was terrible. I have logged plenty of hours cold on my belly in a deer blind and can load a gun with dexterity. If I knew any children (male or female) I would buy them the Boys book, which was good and should have a more gender-neutral name.

Lady Jane Scarlett said...

I loved the Daring book for girls, my 7 year old niece loves it too. She won't let my dad even LOOK at the book because it's "only for girls".

Bear said...

I was in Cosco last fall and saw a huge stack of the Dangerous Book for Boys. I started flipping through it, quickly realized how awesome it was, and picked up two copies. Unfortunately, the girls book was nowhere to be found, so I didn't even know it existed. In fact, I had suggested to my fiance that she come up with ideas for it, since she was amused by the boys book. Weeks later she found the girls book at the same store.

rennratt said...

Thanks for reviewing these books.

My daughter may get this book for a 'surprise random gift'!

db grin said...

Great review, got me thinking - and I hope you're getting a kickback because you just jacked up their sales by at least 3!

Hyperion said...

Koz - The kid should be able to read, climb a tree and extort money: then he's ready.

Stags - The girls' book WAS NOT terrible, although likely inferior to the boys'. I say likely becuase not being a girl, I'm not sure how much some of that stuff would appeal to them. I take it you aren't a girl, either. Well, let them decide.

Lady Jane Scarlett - 7 is too young. Have your niece's parents thrown in jail.

Bear - I'm trying to think of a way your story could have been more boring, but I'm at a loss. I think you only commented so you could drop that you had a "fiance." JK (sort of). I also would like to create my own book. Maybe for kids of Hyperionites? We should work on it.

Rennratt - How about you send me some "surprise random beef jerky" or "surpise random playboys"?

db grin - I get no kickbacks (alas), but luckily my readers make up the difference with their PayPal donations. Just kidding: they're the cheapest bastards on Earth, always taking my top-quality programming and never ponying up. I may have them all killed. No, that's too harsh. I may have them all affixed with tails. I like that word: affixed. I plan on using it several more times this weekend.

Sea Hag said...

I'd much rather know hwo to tie knots and hunt rabbit than press a damn flower in a book or fold a t-shirt.

Stags said...

I once was a girl and I remain incensed. Any book that continues to reaffirm cultural gender differences cannot be good.

Hyperion said...

I will admit there are some cultural (and unnecessary) gender differences if you will admit that there are also some hardwired in. Girls' and Boys' brains are simply different, and it well may be that some of those "cultural" differences come from biological inclinations. To say that "any" book reaffirming cultural gender differences cannot be good is akin to saying "any" person who would judge a book based on preconceived notions with a strong ideological bent cannot be thinking it through.

Then again, you were just a girl. (JK. Most girls are much smarter than boys. Must be those dang cultural differences.)